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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  September 1, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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course i've been on. thanks for watching nbc bay area news at 5:00. nbc nightly news is back. we're back at 6:00. hope to see you then. on the program for this sunday night, strikes delayed. now the president wants congress to authorize an attack on syria. a stunning gamble and a risk if he fails. washington says it is a matter of national security and that there's new evidence that syria's president used nerve gas on its people. we are on the ground in damascus. dangerous ug, it's called molly. it's the rage of recreational drug users and it's linked to three recent deaths. we will tell you what it is and who's using it. out of the hospital, former south african president nelson mandela is home tonight after three months in the hospital. but what's his state of health? we are live from johannesburg. and drive-in drama. while the digital age threatens an institution, we will meet those trying to keep a slice of americana alive.
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good evening. the white house tonight is presenting new evidence that sarin gas was used in a chemical attack in syria, as it tries to convince congress to authorize a military strike there. it's unclear if lawmakers will approve the request when they return next week from recess, but already, the decision to ask for support has had ripple effects both here and around the world. we have complete coverage tonight, and we begin with nbc's kristen welker at the white house. kristen, good evening. >> reporter: carl, good evening to you. the decision to give congress a vote is a political gamble by president obama. one white house official tells me the strategy moving forward will be to flood the zone and that effort started today with the chief of staff, vice president and president making a flurry of phone calls to lawmakers and other top officials, holding a rare holiday briefing today on capitol hill.
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with the president's credibility on the line, secretary of state john kerry fanned out on the sunday shows, revealing new evidence, further bolstering the case for military action. >> hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin. so this case is building and this case will build. >> reporter: the administration continued its push with an unusual classified briefing to lawmakers on capitol hill today. more than 100 turned out, despite the holiday weekend. >> i think members of congress were divided. >> reporter: the developments cap a stunning turn of events. the president spent a week indicating a military strike was imminent, sending out secretary kerry to make the case and ordering navy warships to be ready. but on saturday, mr. obama hit the pause button. >> i will seek authorization for the use of force from the american people's representatives in congress. >> reporter: according to senior administration officials,
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despite the public ramp-up, president obama debated seeking congressional support all week, and without a broad international coalition, feeling isolated, aides say it was the no-vote in the british parliament that largely swayed him. >> the nos have it. the nos have it. >> reporter: the president went for a walk with the chief of staff on the white house grounds, and decided he wanted congress to be on record and share the responsibility. he then called a meeting in the oval office that lasted two hours, with some of his closest advisers expressing shock and opposition, but by saturday, they were on board. today, secretary kerry indicated did he not feel undermined by the president and put on a united front. >> david, let me be very blunt. i do not believe the congress of the united states will turn its back on this moment. >> reporter: but this morning, lawmakers previewed the contentious battle to come. >> this is a clear failure of leadership. >> this is a national security issue.
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this isn't about barack obama versus the congress. >> there's weakness here on the part of the president. >> i think it's a mistake to get involved in the syrian civil war. >> if i had to walk over to the capitol right now, i would pull out my voting card and vote no. >> i would vote yes because the whole world is watching and so is iran. >> congress overrules a decision of the president of the united states on an issue of national security, that could set a catastrophic precedent in the future. >> reporter: analysts say the president is taking a political risk. >> if he gets fired down, it could be the talk of a lame duck presidency. >> reporter: senator patrick leahy told reporters today the president's resolution will be amended because it's too broad. officials here say they aren't surprised. the white house outreach continues. the president will hold conference calls and meetings with lawmakers this week. carl? >> kristen welker at the white house. kristen, thanks. the president's decision to
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delay military action inside syria seems to have empowered the assad regime. today, syria's president mocked the white house for what it called america's retreat. correspondent bill neely is on the ground in damascus. >> reporter: well, the first reaction here to president obama's decision came i'd say two minutes after he finished speaking at the white house, when syria's army began shelling rebel-held suburbs here in damascus after a day of quiet. after that came the mocking. one newspaper headline saying, "the american retreat starts here." the deputy prime minister saying obama's delay was "laughable." and today, i spoke to syria's deputy foreign minister, who said he wasn't surprised by obama's decision because he said obama and the administration are lost. they don't know what they are going to do. and he said he hopes the wise people in the u.s. congress would do what the mps in britain's house of commons have done and vote against military action. if they voted for it, he said, syria's army is absolutely ready. but to the opposition here and
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the rebels, this feels like a betrayal. one leader of syria's national council said obama was a weak president and a rebel here in damascus said only one person was smiling at the end of this week, and that was president assad. certainly, he will feel emboldened as the british have pulled back, the americans have delayed. he will feel he has weakened his enemies and there's been heavy shelling as i have been speaking here in damascus. so president assad, as ever, undeterred and defiant. back to you, you carl. >> bill neely in damascus. bill, thanks. let's bring in nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell. andrea, with assad feeling emboldened and the rebels feeling abandoned, does the president's reversal weaken him in the u.s. going forward? >> reporter: well, carl, it helps him at home. i think it helps him domestically, but it certainly makes him look weaker abroad. look, after sending the secretary of state out to deliver that passionate rationale for military action, then deciding to give congress a vote against the advice of his own political and national security team, there is a risk that the president will now be whipsawed between those in congress who want to limit the air strikes and limit the extent of them, and others who want to make them stronger, john mccain, for instance. you have a divided congress with a divided country. the new nbc news poll show half
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don't want a military strike and nearly eight in ten did want congress to vote. overshadowing this debate, the mistakes made in iraq. the white house is arguing this time, the evidence of chemicals is solid, but what is not clear to critics in congress is whether limited strikes would make the situation better or worse. tonight, the arab league is meeting again. the saudis are pushing for a vote to support military action. but the president's reversal has clearly further damaged the perception of him as a decisive leader abroad. carl? >> andrea mitchell in washington. andrea, thanks. now to the people caught up in this brutal conflict, a staggering number of refugees. by some estimates, 1 million children alone. and the anxious syrian-american community in the united states, fearing the worst for their loved ones. we have two reports, the first with richard engel, on syria's border with turkey. >> reporter: this turkish border town has become a little damascus. syrian refugees now outnumber turks here, 2-1. in a damp basement live 150 syrian widows and their children. this woman has 11 children.
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her husband was shot by the syrian army. why did the u.s. postpone its attack on assad? why, she asks? so that all of our young men will be killed? her friend, maher, says they were so optimistic washington was going to help them go home. we are asking obama to strike assad, like he promised, she said. syrians opposed to the regime, made refugees by the regime, say there's now a pattern of the u.s. promising to help but failing to deliver. syrian rebels, we are told, they get weapons but few ever arrived. they were told president assad would be punished for using chemical weapons, but they are still waiting. 12-year-old ahmed from aleppo sells tea on the streets. he hasn't worn shoes in a month. he lost them when he escaped syria. we were running, running, running, he said, and then we got here. on a stoop, he told me his father worked in a restaurant. he went to the market to buy potatoes and a bomb fell. he was killed, he said. ahmed also waits to go home. but for many syrians, there was a harsh realization today. help from washington might not be coming. richard engel, nbc news, turkey. this is luke russert in
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anaheim, california. for high school teacher hassan tweet and his syrian-american family, days are filled with anxiety, worry and fear. >> just walking inside the house and look at your children sleep in peace, and knowing that other people cannot have that peace. we really lost the peace, the sense of serenity and the sense of humanity. >> reporter: he tries to call his family in syria daily. he doesn't always get through. but this day, he does, just a few hours after president obama's address to the nation.
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the conversation is harrowing. >> we are so scared. bashar is killing us. i have no childhood anymore. i miss all my family. mr. obama, please president obama, please, please help us. >> reporter: what's it like talking to them when they're in that condition? >> they could have been dead by now, so it's really heartbreaking. at the same time, i feel really happy inside that i can hear their voice. >> reporter: while hassan understand the president's decision to seek congressional authorization, he thinks american intervention is needed now. >> i called some of my friends in syria. they said, you know, it doesn't mean anything anymore, because, you know, this is a time to hit. >> reporter: for now, the tweet family carries on. >> it is heartbreaking, however, you do have to keep going on with your every day life. but it is in the back of your head, no matter what you do. >> reporter: their hearts are heavy for their loved ones
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thousands of miles away, who are watching and waiting back home in syria. luke russert, nbc news, anaheim, california. to the health now of former south african president, nelson mandela. he is home tonight after spending nearly three months in the hospital. but doctors say the 95-year-old anti-apartheid hero remains in fragile health. nbc's rohit kachroo is in johannesburg for us tonight. rohit, what are you hearing from the family tonight? >> reporter: well, carl, for some time, members of the mandela family have wanted him to be discharged from the hospital and returned here to his home, where officials say he can receive the same level of care with perhaps a little more comfort. nelson mandela is out of the hospital, but his return home does not mean a return to full health. the south african government says his condition remains critical and is at times unstable. at the suburban mansion to which he returned today, medical equipment has been installed so doctors can continue to care for
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him. >> we have decided that they have reconfigured the house so that he can receive proper intensive care, just as he would receive in hospital. and under those circumstances, they have decided now to discharge him and they will treat him adequately. >> reporter: the team caring for him at home is the same team as in the hospital and his health is reviewed every 12 hours by a panel of doctors. >> if there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in the future, this will be done. >> reporter: the former president, the anti-apartheid struggle, has had a recurring lung infection for three months but government officials spoke of his fortitude. his eldest daughter referred to it. what's left clear for many south africans is precisely what nelson mandela's return home tells us about the state of his
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health. usually when someone is discharged from the hospital, that indicates a big improvement in their condition, but with nelson mandela, that is clearly not the case. carl? >> rohit kachroo in johannesburg. rohit, thanks. when "nbc nightly news" continues tonight, the dangers of a recreational drug called molly. it's big in pop culture and tonight, it's linked to a series of deaths. and clinging to a precious piece of history. how technology is threatening a time-honored tradition. the deaths of three young
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the deaths of three young people this week at concerts, all suspected overdoses, are putting a recreational drug known as molly, a form of the drug ecstasy, under new scrutiny. nbc's ron mott is here tonight. ron, this is not a new drug? >> reporter: not at all, carl.
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in fact, it was the '70s and '80s this drug took off recreationally and then exploded in the '90s with a new name, ecstasy. now this refined variety, molly, has only heightened the high and the dangers. its nickname is molly and it's all the rage at techno and electronica concerts. the heady beat of the music, mixed with this adrenaline-pumping drug, has an intoxicating allure for some young partygoers and college students, authorities say, with deadly results. >> a lot of it is related to their inexperience, their misinformation, and the fact that, you know, not quite sure exactly what they are getting. >> reporter: officials of new york city's popular three-day electric zoo musicfest canceled sunday's final show after two attendees in their early 20s died. four others were hospitalized in intensive care. just last week in boston, a 19-year-old college student died of a suspected overdose while attending her first concert. >> she was such a great kid. >> sad, very sad.
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>> reporter: this summer, a man died and dozens more treated for overdosing on molly at a music fest in washington state. molly is short for molecule and is the powdered or crystallized version of mdma, commonly known as ecstasy, in what's believed its purest form. it is known to produce feelings of euphoria and reduce anxiety. >> the early signs of intoxication are going to be high heart rate, high respiratory rate and high blood pressure. so, if you're in a club scene, you're not feeling any of that. >> how many people in this crowd have seen molly? >> reporter: madonna was criticized last year after a show in miami. >> i think i was being ironic, because there were posters everywhere, saying if you've seen molly, call this number. ♪ >> reporter: kanye west, among others, have rapped about it. in new york today, would-be concertgoers spoke out about the drug. >> the same thing as the festival, because of the way the drug makes you feel. you feel the music more. >> it's pretty popular nowadays. molly, you take it and it makes you feel the music better, like
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it makes you all happy. >> reporter: a drug with an innocent-sounding name causing alarm on the concert party scene. according to the u.s. department of health and human services, molly-related emergency room visits skyrocketed from 2004 to 2009, carl, a 123% increase. >> a scary statistic and a scary story, thanks. when we come back on this sunday evening, the man who got richard nixon to apologize for the watergate affair, remembering sir david frost. talk about a close call. it happened on a coastal road
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talk about a close call. it happened on a coastal road
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after days of heavy rain in northern taiwan. a car was caught up in the debris of a landslide when suddenly, a giant boulder came crashing onto the highway. fortunately, the driver and passenger in this car escaped with minor injuries. we learned today of the passing of the veteran british broadcaster, sir david frost, best known for his incisive interviews with public figures like former president richard nixon. frost died last night of an apparent heart attack aboard the queen elizabeth cruise ship. tonight, more from london with annabel roberts. >> hello. good evening. and welcome. hello. good evening. and welcome. >> reporter: the legendary journalist interviewed seven u.s. presidents and eight british prime ministers, but it was david frost's exchanges with nixon that stand out, his persistent questioning finally drawing out an apology for watergate. >> i let down my friends. i let down the country. >> reporter: to this day, a dramatic moment of television history.
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>> the frost/nixon interviews gave america the trial that richard nixon never had. david was the easiest person to work for that i ever had. he was generous. he was kind. he distributed compliments. >> reporter: it wasn't just controversial interviews. frost had a light touch, too, with a reputation in britain for comedy and satire. >> listen, david, when i meet this man, if you think the world was surprised when nixon resigned, wait till i whip foreman's behind. >> reporter: his relaxed style seemed to disarm his interviewees. >> did you ever believe that stuff about having the weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed in 45 minutes or did you never really believ that? >> i believe he was a dangerous man. >> reporter: his charm and wit
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were legendary. >> to my dear friend, sir david frost. >> reporter: a man who made his mark on politics and television on both sides of the atlantic. annabel roberts, nbc news, london. supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg made history by voting with the majority to strike down the defense of marriage act, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage. now, she is believed to be the first member of the high court to preside over a same-sex wedding. yesterday, she married michael kaiser, president of the kennedy center, and his partner, economist john roberts. kaiser said the wedding wasn't about making history, rather, he said it was about marrying the person i love. in just a moment, changing the curtains on a great american pastime.
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on this labor day weekend marking the unofficial end of summer, we close with a story about an american pastime. there used to be 4,000 drive-in movie theaters in the u.s. now, there are fewer than 400. tonight, nbc's randy mcilwain on how technology threatens to phase out one of our cultural icons. >> reporter: at the mighty drive-in theater in greenwood, south carolina -- >> hey, welcome to the drive-in tonight. >> reporter: you pay for a ticket. >> have a great evening. >> reporter: but you get an experience. >> i think it's just good family time. >> this is like true american right here, going to a drive-in movie. being here with the family is something you just don't get to do anywhere else. >> reporter: drive-ins are still very popular in local communities. there's no shortage of crowds and enthusiasm. what threatens the american drive-in is the conversion to
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digital. it's a 70 to $80,000 expense many of them can't afford. >> this is truly a seasonal business. you make your money may, june, july, august. after that, it's just like turning off the faucet. >> reporter: owners tommy and carolyn mccutcheon and their son, tom, reopened the auto drive-in in 2009 after it sat dormant for 33 years. these days, making movies no longer means making films. >> if we don't go digital, we go dark. you can't stay with film. film is gone. it's dead. it's out of here. >> reporter: more than 350 drive-ins across the country, the conversion means new fmore drive-ins across the country, the conversion means new omore drive-ins across the country, the conversion means new rmore drive-ins across the country, the conversion means new more drive-ins across the country, the conversion means new projectors. jim copp recently upgraded his projectors. >> the product is going to be a lot better. the downside of it is that the projectors are very expensive. >> this is project drive-in. >> reporter: honda is trying to shine a light on the plight of american drive-ins with a new online contest. the prize, new digital projectors for the winners. for the auto drive-in, that could cost upwards of $160,000. feel like you need a miracle? >> yeah, 'cause a miracle
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would -- could work. it would work. >> reporter: bringing new technology into an old tradition, for a second chance on the drive-in's big screen. randy mcilwain, nbc news, greenwood, south carolina. and that is "nbc nightly news" for this sunday evening. i'm carl quintanilla reporting tonight from new york. a reminder, we welcome brian williams back to the anchor chair on tuesday. for all of us here on nbc news, good night.
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and thrive. thbs bay area news starts now. >> good evening. less than 36 hours until the bay bridge is set to reopen, and things seem to be going as planned. at a news conference late this afternoon, cal tran said work remains on track. drivers and bicyclists should be able to test it out on tuesday. nbc bay area's kimberly terry joins us live with more on the new bike and pedestrian path and the latest on construction. kimberly? >> reporter: let me show you the work that's going on from where we are. you can see crews are finishing up the


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